The Organisation of African Unity (OAU; French: Organisation de l’unité africaine, OUA) was an intergovernmental organization established on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with 32 signatory governments.
One of the main heads for OAU’s establishment was Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. It was disbanded on 9 July 2002 by its last chairman, South African President Thabo Mbeki, and replaced by the African Union (AU). Some of the key aims of the OAU were to encourage political and economic integration among member states, and to eradicate colonialism and neo-colonialism from the African continent.
The absence of an armed force like that of the United Nations left the organization with no means to enforce its decisions. It was also not willing to become involved in the internal affairs of member nations, prompting some critics to deride the OAU as a forum for rhetoric, not action. Recognizing this, the OAU in September 1999 issued the Declaration, calling for a new body to take its place. On 9 July 2002, this happened with the creation of the African Union. The African Union continues to this day to uphold many of the founding principles of the OAU.
The first ever conference of the OAU was held on 1 May 1963 in Addis Ababa. At that conference, the late Gambian historian—and one of the leading Gambian nationalists and Pan-Africanists at the time—Alieu Ebrima Cham Joof delivered a speech in front of the member states, in which he said:
It is barely 75 years when the European Powers sat around the table in Germany each holding a dagger to carve up Africa for its own benefit.… Your success will inspire and speed up the freedom and total independence of the African continent and eradicate imperialism and colonialism from the continent and eventually neo-colonialism from the globe…
Your failure, which no true African in Africa is praying for, will prolong our struggle with bitterness and disappointment. I, therefore, adjure that you ignore any suggestion outside Africa and holding that the present civilization, which some of the big powered are boasting of, sprang up from Africa, and realising that the entire world has something earthly to learn from Africa, you would endeavour your utmost to come to agreement, save Africa from the clutches of neo-colonialism and resurrect African dignity, manhood and national stability.